Dogs, Chocolate and Candy

Dogs and Candy: Sweet Safety Infographic


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Yummy treats for humans, such as chocolate, mints and brownies, can be dangerous and, in some cases, even deadly for dogs. Dogs need to be protected from getting their paws on people sweets. Here’s a guide to keeping your dog safe from the chocolate stash year-round, but especially during the holidays when treats are everywhere.

Dogs, like humans, have a natural sweet tooth that can be dangerous when combined with their canine tenacity, their strong sense of smell and sweets in paws’ reach.

  • 14,600: The number of calls in 2015 to the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center from worried owners whose pets ingested human food.
  • 6-12 hours: The amount of time between consumption of chocolate and the onset of symptoms.

The Trouble with Chocolate

Theobromine & Caffeine: The two molecules in chocolate that are toxic to dogs.

These compounds stimulate the cardiovascular and nervous systems in both canines & humans, but they break down slower in dogs and cause longer-lasting, more severe symptoms.

Did You Know?

  • Most cases of chocolate poisoning occur around Halloween, Valentine’s Day, Easter, and Christmas when chocolate is more readily available.
  • Treats with a higher percentage of cocoa have higher levels of theobromine and caffeine and are thus more toxic to dogs.
  • Smaller dogs are at greater risk of chocolate poisoning than larger dogs because they can more easily ingest a toxic dose relative to their weight.

How Much Chocolate Would Cause Severe Toxicity in My Dog?

Small Dog - 20 lbs.

  • Milk Chocolate: 6 oz.
  • Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips: 3 oz.
  • Dark Chocolate: 2.5 oz.
  • Baking Chocolate: 1 oz.

Medium Dog - 50 lbs.

  • Milk Chocolate: 15 oz.
  • Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips: 6.5 oz.
  • Dark Chocolate: 7 oz.
  • Baking Chocolate: 2.5 oz.

Large Dog - 90 lbs.

  • Milk Chocolate: 26 oz.
  • Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips: 10.5 oz.
  • Dark Chocolate: 11 oz.
  • Baking Chocolate: 4 oz.

The Danger in Sweeteners:

Xylitol is a naturally-derived sweetener used in many sugar-free candies, gums, mints, and baked goods, that is a serious risk for dogs. This sugar substitute stimulates the rapid release of insulin in canines, which leads to a dangerous, sometimes fatal drop in blood sugar.

Xylitol is found in: Sugar-free varieties of candy, gum, peanut butter, mints, chocolate bars and baked goods. It is also used in cough syrup, chewable vitamins, mouthwash and toothpaste.

Dogs often eat sweets with the wrapper on; this can delay the release of toxic compounds and cause digestive system blockages.

Dogs are at far greater risk of poisoning themselves with treats than cats, who have no taste receptors for sweets and tend to be picky eaters.

If you keep raisins in your house, make sure your dog can’t reach them. Raisins and grapes can cause severe digestive problems and acute renal failure in dogs.

Dog-proof Your Sweets

  • Always keep chocolate, candies, brownies, cookies, cakes, raisins, grapes, and any products containing Xylitol in high cabinets that your dog cannot reach.
  • If your dog loves peanut butter, always double-check the ingredients list for Xylitol.
  • Remind any children in the home that these items are dangerous for your dog.
  • Be extra vigilant around the holidays.
  • Crate your dog when you’re gone to keep him from eating things he shouldn’t.

What to Do If Your Dog Eats Chocolate or Sweets

Symptoms That Require Immediate Medical Attention:

  • Vomiting
  • Rapid and/or irregular heartbeat
  • Agitation
  • Heavy panting
  • Muscle tremors
  • Staggering
  • Seizures
  • Diarrhea
  • Dehydration

If your dog is small or ingests an unknown quantity of chocolate, packaging, xylitol, raisins or grapes — take him to the vet immediately. Do not wait for symptoms to appear.

If you know exactly how much your dog ate, contact your veterinarian. After calculating the amount of toxin ingested relative to your dog’s weight, the vet will likely recommend either a watch-and-wait approach or immediate emergency treatment.

Remember, when in doubt, always have your dog checked out by your veterinarian, or call the ASPCA Poison Control hotline, toll free at (888) 426-4435 for immediate answers.

Check out our The Orvis Guide to Dog Safety for more great tips.